Teaching self-control

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls. Proverbs 25:28

As a child, every Sunday my family and I went to our uncle's home for Sunday morning meeting. When my grandfather was alive, we would gather at his home. We didn't attend a main stream church, rather our family gathered together for hymns, bible reading and pray.  Between hymns there were periods of silent which, for any child, felt like forever. It was tough going at times. As children we were expected to sit quietly, no talking, no fidgeting, no walking about and we certainly weren't allow to have any toys to play with or books to read. As the youngest I sat next to my parents and if I did anything wrong I was given "that look" which I knew meant trouble. 

From memory, I can't remember any of us getting into major trouble, we knew what was expected of us from an early age and we did as we were told - otherwise it meant trouble and perhaps the wooden spoon on our bottom once we got home.  I think fear kept us generally well behaved.

We also had to sit quietly when visiting friends (something we did occasionally on Sunday afternoons).  This wasn't as strict as Sunday morning meeting, but we were expected to be polite,  well mannered and to behave as children should - not loud or noisy and certainly not talking over  adults when they were talking. 

The need to sit quietly (which requires self control) is a skill we are loosing all too quickly. Most children at church are no longer required to sit still and keep quiet. Many children go to Sunday school where they can make as much noise as they like. Children now take toys, books and even electronic devices with them to church to keep them occupied, however I am not sure if this is really a good thing in the long term.

Children do need to learn to sit still and quiet, even for short periods of time.  Not only do they need to sit quietly, they need to learn to listen and concentrate on what is being said and that is difficult to do when playing with devices or reading books. Learning to sit still and listen teaches a child self-control, something I think is lacking in many children (and certainly some adults) these days.

There is something like 52 verses in the bible regarding self-control, which tells me this is really important for Christians. We also have examples, such as Eve, where self-control wasn't used and the consequences were not pretty at all. We need to have self-control and we need to instil it into our children from an early age.

A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. (Proverbs 29:11)

Sadly, we live in a world without self-control which is evident in the increase in violence, stealing, gambling, drunkenness, pornography, lying, cheating etc... making it even harder for Christians to maintain strong self-control. For Christians who do say "no" to temptation are often ridiculed and mocked for "not joining in" making the struggle even more difficult.  No wonder some Christians backslide.  However this should not come as any surprise to us, as it is clearly written in 2 Timothy 3:1-5

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Self control is not just about learning to sit quietly in church, it involves all aspects of our lives:

  • being able to control ones emotions e.g. anger
  • being able to control what one says to another
  • being about to control lust the wandering eye and staying away from pornography
  • being able to control the amount one eats and drinks (gluttony)
  • being able to control the household budget
  • being able to control how we behave at work, at church etc.
  • being able to stick at a task that isn't very enjoyable 
  • being able to say no to sinful desires
  • being able to go to bed on time and getting up in the morning
  • being able to control time spent on the computer/TV and other electronic devices

Self control isn't always fun and in fact it can be very painful and result in suffering. This is best illustrated in a marriage. A husband is ranting at his wife, saying very hurtful words and she just wants to respond angrily, however it is in this instant that she needs to use self-control and look to the Lord Jesus Christ as her example  her words and behaviour need to be biblical. However, this is incredibly hard in the heat of an argument where there is so much pain.

Whilst 2 Timothy 3:1-5 shows us what happens to those lacking self-control,  Titus Chapter 2 shows us how we need to behave - a long list of things that relate to self control for both men and women, young and old:

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

I am certainly still working on my self-control and struggle at times to do what is right. However through much pray and bible reading, it does become easier in time (and with age). However it is important not to turn "self-control" into a pride issue e.g. "I can do it better than you". This is no better than not having self-control.

So lets work on our self-control this week and perhaps see if we can make improvements in those areas we struggle with most.

So then, my beloved brethren, 
let every man be swift to hear, 
slow to speak, 
slow to wrath. 

James 1:19



  1. This is SO super important. While we allowed our children to read and do quiet activities in church meetings when they were really small, they were never allowed to get off their chair, and they had to sit facing forwards. Now we often have them sit still and listen - or if it's something that they just won't comprehend, we allow them to quietly read.
    I find this can be a problem with homeschoolers sometimes (yes, homeschoolers aren't perfect!)... If they don't get their children to sit still and be quiet in class time (like children have to at school), and they don't make their children sit still during church meetings... WHEN will the child learn to sit still and be quiet?
    Self-control isn't something that comes naturally - it is something that must be taught, and it must be exercised. It's not easy to teach, it's not easy to learn. But it must be learned if we are to follow in the Lord's footsteps, there's no two things about it.
    I think some of the problems (with children in church meetings, and teaching self-control in general) are: (i) parents have trouble exercising self-control themselves and so it's not something they necessarily think is important for their children, and (ii) it IS hard work to teach children self-control - it takes consistent discipline and vigilance - and this is something parents aren't real keen on teaching/exercising in families. And so, it's being lost! (for other reasons also, as you mentioned) This is bad, bad news for society, families, and individuals.

    1. I was having a conversation with a friend in regards to self control and we talked about the change to modern cars and how many now come with videos for the children in the back seat. I can remember many long trips were we sat and chatted or looked out the window. We learnt how to sit still and behave ourselves. Now children expect a DVD to watch on the drive as they can no longer entertain themselves. This is really sad, they need entertainment wherever they go.

      I think their parents are to blame - they themselves lack self control - many many adults are over weight and eat badly. Many gamble, drink and watch pornography. All signs of the lack of self control. Road rage is another example. I really don't know how they manage at work.

      it is bad news for society if we simply can't control ourselves.

  2. I quote: "Self control isn't always fun and in fact it can be very painful and result in suffering. This is best illustrated in a marriage. A husband is ranting at his wife, saying very hurtful words and she just wants to respond angrily....." end quote.... I feel that should a husband rant at his wife, and say hurtful things to her, she has every right to ask him, " Show me how your behaviour is glorifying the Lord in this? Isn't that what you are supposed to do? Aren't you, as the head of the house, supposed to set an example to me and our children, so we can follow your example?" And then walk away or even leave the room.... I wonder what he would say if his wife did that?

    1. In the heat of the augment the husband (especially if he isn't a Christian - such as mine) would only be made more angry. A man who behaves Godly wouldn't or shouldn't be doing this anyway.

  3. Jo, I completely agree with this whole article. To touch on the children being "self controlled" in church... I would have to say that it starts at home at the dinner table. If you can teach what is acceptable at home, then the children will already understand what is expected of them. We can't allow them to run amuck during meals (for example) and then expect them to sit still at meeting (they won't know what that means). We have to constantly work at raising our families in the home circle and not just give a crash course in public... Also, self control is a wonderful weapon for the godly wife. With it, she will glorify her Creator and keep peace in the home. A gentle answer does turn away wrath as Proverbs teaches. Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays.

    1. You are so right - we (as children) were taught to behave at the table, no running about or getting up before permission is given. We would have got into big trouble if we had. We taught our children the same. One thing I really dislike is going out for a meal and having it ruined by children who are allow to run about without their parents saying anything (which I see more and more these days). It puts my husband off and as a result he isn't keen to go to certainly places to eat.

      Self-control also makes submitting to one's husband much easier :)

    2. Hi Jo, That is exactly it... One more thought, it reminds me of the movie, The Miracle Worker when Helen Keller was allowed to roam the room during meals which was a big distracton and Annie Sullivan would not have it! She won in the end and peace was restored :) Have a wonderful week ~~

  4. Well written! This is truly important but not spoken of much these days. Thank you! I found you via the homemaking party! I am now following.

  5. I really appreciated this post Jo and wanted to let you know it has been featured this week...


    Have a wonderful day! :)

    1. Thanks so much Jes :)) very much appreciated.

      Have a lovely week.


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